Blackwolf the Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft

Being a Chronicle of the Inner Secrets of, and Spells of Magick as Wielded by, the Philosopher of the Internet and Unofficial Sorcerer-in-Residence of the City of New York

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Location: New York, New York, United States

As New York's Unofficial Wizard, my mission is to encourage the Mortals of Manhattan to imagine responsibly!

Monday, February 28, 2005

Blackwolf @ the Oscars, Part Two

After 9 minutes of having thrown down with the Kodak Theatre audience, Chris introduced the night's first presenter, Halle Berry, who'd just come off of winning the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress in a Leading Role, for her oh, so horryifing take on Catwoman! Halle was introducing the night's first award, that of Art Direction/Set Decoration, and with it, the first of Gilly boy's innovations for a quicker telecast --- that of having all the nominees in certain categories assemble on the same stage together, as opposed to having to call forth the single victor. The chosen ones: Dante Ferretti and Francesco LoSchiavo for The Aviator. Ferretti's speech was rather broken (for English, anyway!), but he at least thanked Scorsese and the entire Art Department, "which, without them, it was impossible for me to do this for us." Then Renee Zellwegger presented Morgan Freeman with his award as Best Supporting Actor for his work in the evening's overall big winner, Million Dollar Baby. Morgan then thanked his eventual co-winners, Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank, along with the entire MDB team. Cue the next round of commercials.

Pepsi's "I am Spartacus" riff, which asked the musical question "What if Pepsi ruled the Roman Empire?", really sucked, but at least, it was followed by Ellen DeGeneres (one of my fellow Grammy Award losers, I might add!) boogying for American Express! Next, Robin Williams came on stage to imagine himself doing Brando as Elmer Fudd and Jack Nicholson as Bugs Bunny before finally calling up Brad Bird to receive the Best Animated Feature Oscar for Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles. Brad wondered which was scarier: being watched by the whole Planet or having to face the wrath of those who would be "annoyed with me tomorrow for not mentioning them tonight." Well, hey, Brad: you were nice enough to mention your family, which is good news.

Cate Blanchett stood in the audience for the second of the show's main innovations, this one involving having the winners step up to the mike immediately, so that they would not need to be on stage. In this case, the category was Makeup; and accordingly Cate summoned the fortunate duo of Valli O'Reilly and Bill Corso, who had so wickedly transformed Jim Carrey into Count Olaf, nasty person-in-residence of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events! While Valli was quick to apologize to Jim and the cast for making them all look so unfortunate, Corso was not as forgiving of Mr. Snicket: "Mr. Lemony Snicket, don't write any more of these books. They're corrupting our youth," said he. "Brad Silberling, why did you have to do such a good job?" Because, you booby, he was the director! How silly a Mortal can ye be, by Merlin's beard?!

Drew Barrymore took the stage next; she was to introduce the first of the evening's nominees for Best Original Song, Look to Your Past (Vois Sur Ton Chemin), from The Chorus. Pop diva Beyonce was accompanied by members of Princeton, NJ's beloved American Boychoir; the segment, however, lost points with yours truly, as the performers sang the song in its original French. Worse, there were no English subtitles for non-French speaking viewers to follow along. Way to go, Gil! Next year, could the Academy at least be decent enough to nominate a foreign language song --- and then, put the English translation on the screen? Then came a taped piece in which Chris did his own man-on-the-street interview, wherein, in his words, he "left the Kodak Theatre and went to the Magic Johnson Theatre (presumably, the one at Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood)." Then Louis J. Horvitz cut to Scarlett Johansen, stationed in one of the Kodak's balconies, and joined by four of the Sci-Tech Oscar winners; that segment was, quite mercifully, a brief one.

A raspy-voiced Pierce Brosnan then took to the stage for the Costume Design segment, wherein the former 007 was joined by none other than the Incredibles' superheroic costume designer, Edna Mode (voiced by her very creator, Brad Bird! Now how cool was this, I ask ye: winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar AND voicing a character from that same flick --- LIVE [or so one can assume!]. Anyway, Sandy Powell landed the Costume Design Oscar for The Aviator; then, Tim Robbins presented a returning Cate Blanchett with the Supporting Actress Oscar, again for The Aviator. In thanking Marty, she hoped her son would marry Scorsese's daughter. Yeah, sure. This led us into the next round of spots, and a tearjerking salute to GM's OnStar, with testimonials from OnStar users mingled with the Beatles' The Long and Winding Road. A so-so spot, but I guess it served its purpose. Afterwards, the next production piece appeared on the screen: A salute to Johnny Carson's years as Oscar host, with observations from Whoopi Goldberg (whose presence, of course, your Dragonmaster clearly missed!).

The epic of Blackwolf at the 77th Annual Academy Awards continues anon, hither in me Diary of Magecraft!

Blackwolf @ the Oscars, Part One

Well, Mortals, it took me a while, but here in my Diary of Magecraft, I can tell you goodly gentles my own observations of the 77th Annual Academy Awards! Those of you seeking the complete texts of all the acceptance speeches are herewith instructed to visit; I trust you will find that there is much to cheer, as well as jeer, once you have finished reading me exclusive, inside chronicle.

First of all, the 30-minute arrivals show, produced by KABC Los Angeles for the ABC-Owned & Operated Stations, was a horrifying flop, as Chicago Tribune legend Roger Ebert took far too much time with his interviews, which were far too short for my tastes; ABC7/L.A.'s Eyewitness News team needs a whole mess of improvement if they're going to pay more proper attention to the movies.

The Academy-sanctioned arrivals show, billed as "Oscar Countdown 2005," re-teamed telecast producer Gil Cates with his partner, Dennis E. Doty; not even this one-two punch could rescue this show, anchored by the overly bubbly quartet of Billy Bush, Shaun Robinson, Chris Connelly and Jann Carl. As far as the factoids were concerned, things went far too fast for even your Dragonmaster to pay proper attention to them. A highlight of the Countdown telecast, however, involved the selection of three "favorite all-time classic acceptance speeches" as selected by visitors to; the overall winner was Tom Hanks' emotional Best Actor commentary, for his work in Philadelphia. The full text of that speech, with rude remarks on the 1994 telecast overall, are featured in the book Inside Oscar 2, which features scathing highlights on every Oscar show between 1993 and 2000.

Among the worst ideas behind the several commercials that premiered on the Academy Awards was a Nabisco spot introducing a promotion involving a twit calling himself "The Snack Fairy." The Snack Fairy? Oh, really! I've seen less imaginative food-related spots on TV in recent years; at least, they had the good sense to be FUNNY! But I suppose that, like the rest of us, we were waiting with baited breath to see whether or not Gil Cates' great experiment --- that of standing by host Chris Rock, and shortening certain segments in order to appease the New York TV critics watching the live feed as aired by WABC-TV hither in ye Byg Appyl!

The evening's proceedings began with the comforting voicely presence of Randy Thomas, Gil's beloved go-to wench, the first female announcer at the Oscars; Milady Randy introduced an extended prelude, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, and concluding (terrifically, I must say) with a CGI meeting of two generations of movie icons: Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp walking off alongside America's favorite ogre, Shrek! How delectable. At that point, 'twas time for Chris Rock to make his move. This he did with a vengeance.

He began his 9-minute rant by suggesting that the studios' problem was that they make a lot of their films far too quickly for his tastes: "Clint Eastwood's a star. Tobey Maguire is just a boy in tights!" "If you want to make a movie with a big star, you need to WAIT!" "If you go to the Grammys, there's singing. If you go to the Tonys, there's singing and dancing. If you go to the Source Awards, there's singing, dancing, and shooting. But there's no acting at the Oscars at all.... I mean, the only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people act like they're not mad they lost!" "If you hire Russell Crowe, he'll not only act like it was three weeks ago, he'll behave like it was three weeks ago --- why, he'll even research everything that happened three weeks ago, and then you'll say, 'Man, that guy looked like he was playing something three weeks ago!'"

Rock's first quip, aimed apparently at President Bush, was probably the night's sole controversy: in that he compared the war in Iraq against working at, say, the Gap. If you made 70 trillion dollars on a war, Rock commented, and you had a beef against Banana Republic, because you learned that Banana Republic had tank tops, what if it turned out that there were no tank tops in the Banana Republic? Lastly, Rock told his listeners that he would gladly trade ye Passion of the Christ for Soul Plane any day in the week!